As marketers, we relentlessly focus on putting forward the best public image of the brands we represent. We attempt to attract consumers by pitching the virtues of an ideal, must-have solution that taps in to vulnerabilities. We pitch products as the be-all, end-all answer to our needs… the ideal tech gadget, the ideal job, the ideal beauty product…
But think about it. Can the concept of an ideal anything exist at all? Especially when you consider that it’s a construct of our imagination that wildly varies by person and with the passing of time.
The aspiration of an ideal self will contain as many interpretations of ‘ideal’ as there are people. If each person has their own personal ideal self—a projection that captures the intentions of who we desire to be, then you start to understand the complexity of the challenge brands face to remain relevant to consumers.
More importantly, as each of us strives to attain this uber self, we must also take into consideration that it involves a process of discovery. We certainly won’t be who we are now, projected into the future. We’ll go through a process of developing new perspectives and experiences that will change our outlook and cognitive needs as individuals.
Along the way, we’ll adopt what we believe will help us embrace our future selves. We’ll try out new experiences, develop capabilities with needs that shift our loyalty to brands that can communicate directly to addressing the need of finding an ideal self. After going through those experiences, we will be who we are in that future.
For consumers, this will inevitably involve scrutiny of our brand choices. Our habits will change, resulting in a shift in loyalty from one brand to those we believe will help us attain this notion of future self. It might involve forsaking a car and adopting cycling, changes in our reading habits, adopting different dietary needs, splurging on a luxury item, having a change of heart, or pursuing an entirely different lifestyle altogether.
Who we will be, what our needs will be, and what the idea of what ‘ideal’ may mean will evolve.
If all things change, does anything stay constant?
Maybe not constant, but I see the presence of common values as something worth paying attention towards. Like anything, the values one adopts aren’t completely immune to change. But they’re likely to be more consistent as a set of beliefs we develop early and carry with us into adulthood. They’ll influence the consumer choices we make, who we work for, the relationships we nurture, and the perspective we use to find our place in the world.
So where does this leave brands?
According to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer, 70% of Gen Z participate in social or political causes, 73% buy or advocate for brands aligned to their beliefs and values, and 62% want to work with brands to address societal issues. 80% of respondents who took part in a study conducted by Harvard Business Review indicated they would try a new brand in 2023 if they thought it could help them achieve their goals.
It’s a signal for brands aiming for longevity to embrace a values-driven approach to their business. It should be genuine, embedded in the culture, and form the foundation for creating meaningful consumer relationships that transcend the stages of self-discovery.
Speaking directly to the immediate sensibilities of the consumer and doing so at a poignant time in their lives will create emotive resonance. And the brands who can speak directly to these aspirations will take their place as a trusted provider in the ongoing pursuit of one’s ideal self.